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Italics – Israeli woman wins Florence marathon, smashing national record

italicsBy Stuart Weiner*

Israeli runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter won the Florence Marathon Sunday in a time that shaved over 11 minutes off the previous Israeli women’s record for the distance.

Chemtai crossed the rain-soaked finishing line in 2:24:17, smashing the previous record of 2:35.59 set two years ago by Elena Dolinin.

Chemtai already holds Israeli records for 1,500, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and the half marathon.

It was only the fifth time Chemtai had competed in a marathon and set her on course to compete in the event in the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev welcomed the victory, which, she said in a statement, added to Chemtai’s “dream year” of wins.

“Lonah Chemtai once again proves that there is no record that she can’t smash and improve,” Regev said. “Our Londah is finishing a dream year with achievements and broken records, and in only her fifth marathon sends out a clear declaration of intent ahead of Tokyo 2020.”

Chemtai made headlines in August when she won a gold medal in the 10,000 meters race at the European Championships in Berlin, but then failed to repeat her success in the 5,000 meter event when she mistakenly stopped running a lap too early after thinking she had just finished in second place.

As race officials rang the bell, indicating the start of the final lap, Salpeter realized her error and sprinted off in a bold attempt to catch the leaders.

The gap, however, proved too large to close and she finished in fourth place, in a time of 15:01. Despite her catastrophic pause, the time was a new Israeli record.

Born in Kenya, Chemtai moved to Israel in 2011 and had been fighting for citizenship for years.

She originally came to Israel in 2008, as a nanny for a diplomat at the Kenyan embassy. A keen runner, she was introduced to Israeli coach Dan Salpeter, and the two fell in love.

When her stint working for the Kenyan diplomat was up, Chemtai returned to Kenya, where the couple decided to marry in hopes of later moving to Israel. They now have a young son.

*The article was published in The Times of Israel on November 25, 2018.